Is it vacant now? A bluebird catastrophe

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A story I didn’t have the heart to tell until now.

Mr. Bluebird has just peeked into the nesting box. Perched on top, Mrs. B. is wondering if the box is available. “Have the sparrows left?” she queries. “Can we move in?” (That’s my guess at their conversation based on their actions and the expressions on their tiny faces.)

 

A few months earlier, when summer was at its peak, Mrs. B, with a little help from her mate, had diligently built a nest in this very same box. When the nest was ready, the time had come. She laid three tiny eggs in her carefully constructed nest, and both parents went to work keeping watch over their brood. Day after day, she tended the nest, making occasional quick trips outside to pick up more twigs and a grub or two, carrying them back to the nest in her beak. Sometimes Mr. Bluebird would bring her a grub or a worm, although he mostly patrolled the neighborhood, doing his best to keep the house sparrows and blue jays away from the little family.

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Sadly, his best wasn’t good enough. One morning, when Momma and Poppa were both briefly out of the nest, an intruder got inside. How do I know that? I know because I had been keeping a close eye on the nest from my nearby kitchen window. Seeing the pair of beautiful blue birds, tending the nest so carefully, brought me great joy.

I checked on them every time I passed by the window, and then, one morning, tragedy struck. I glanced out the window and was horrified to see a house sparrow sitting on top of the nesting box, and the bluebirds were nowhere to be seen. I checked the nest often for the next few days. Occasionally I spotted Mr. Bluebird, perched on a nearby branch or on one of the feeders, his eyes scanning the neighborhood, but the momma was nowhere in sight. The house sparrows were around though, entering and leaving the nesting box they had quickly claimed as their own.

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Finally, after a few days, we opened the box and discovered three tiny eggs, with a hole pecked in each one. We sadly cleaned out the box, hoping an empty box would discourage the sparrows. It did, but except for a very rare visit to the neighborhood, the bluebirds were gone. They didn’t return to the nest.

Then one day, months later, at the end of October, I was excited to see a bluebird, not just one, but a pair of bluebirds, in the backyard. I began to keep a close eye on the nest, as I had months earlier, and eventually, as I watched, Mr. Bluebird entered the nest, not once, but several times. And one of those times, a house sparrow flew up and tried to enter the nesting box when the bluebird was already inside. With a flurry of feathers and much beating of wings, the brave bluebird repelled the invader, as I stood at the window and cheered.

 

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Mr. Bluebird defending the nest!

What will happen next? I don’t know. I’m rooting for Mr. and Mrs. Bluebird, but the sparrows are persistent. I’m keeping my fingers crossed!

Please keep your fingers crossed too.
I’ll let you know what happens!
Trail Walker

Simply backyard birding

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This week has been hot and steamy, absolutely my least favorite kind of weather; however, yesterday afternoon a storm blew through. The temperature dropped and the steamy humidity dissipated. Yay!  Today has been blissfully cool. Exactly the kind of weather I enjoy! Apparently the birds like it too because they were a lot more active this morning.

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Lady hummer enjoying the flowers

I was delighted to see her enjoying the bright colors because that is what I most enjoy about summer. It’s definitely not the heat, but the color that I like most about this season, and apparently the hummers like it too. All too soon they will head south on their annual migration, and they will be sorely missed. I didn’t get a very sharp picture of her flitting in the flowers, but she also appreciated the feeders I had filled with fresh sugar water yesterday.

One of the surprising sights this morning was the downy woodpecker, surprising because he was investigating the empty bluebird box.  To my delight, early in the summer, a pair of bluebirds had moved into the box, and I spent many hours watching them. They gave me a a great deal of joy, but suddenly one day they were gone. Sadly they have not returned, and I discovered that the house sparrows had entered the nesting box and destroyed their three little eggs. I was a long time getting over that shock, and I didn’t even want to post any of the many pictures I had taken of the bluebirds. Maybe some day, but not yet. But today here is the male downy woodpecker, checking out the nest. I wonder if he is looking for a home for the colder days that are coming? Maybe we will need another box if the bluebirds return next summer.

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Looking in the door
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It was a tight squeeze, but he got inside.
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A competitor or a mate?

I didn’t have much more time for backyard birding this morning, but I captured three more shots: a little house finch and two shots of a chubby red-bellied woodpecker feasting on the suet cakes.

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Thanks for visiting.
That’s all for now, but I’ll post more pictures on another day.
Trail Walker

Darn spring cleaning!

Sometime things around the house require my attention. I try not to let that happen too often, but when it does, and I begin to trip over the dust bunnies, something has to be done about them. That has happened to me recently. Consequently, I haven’t been out on the trail with my camera very often. Sad, but true! However, I have managed a few trail walks recently and some backyard birding, so I finally have something to post on my blog. Today. I’m sharing a few shots taken through my kitchen window. Let me know what you think.

To my delight, the bluebirds have been in and out of the nesting box multiple times per day. They make me smile on a regular basis! The blue jays and red-bellied woodpeckers are also faithful visitor to the seed cylinders and suet.

And then, on occasion, the pileated woodpeckers will swoop in for a meal.
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The last picture made me hold my breath until I actually got the shot. Never before has one of the big ones landed that low in the yard, and I was afraid she would fly away before I grabbed a shot or two. My hubby had planted some colorful flowers in a plastic tray on top of one of the stumps just outside the kitchen window, and they apparently attracted her eye. Since this visitor doesn’t have a red mustache to match the red crest, I’m pretty sure it’s the female. Both the male and female are nesting somewhere in our neighborhood. It’s exciting to have both stop in at the same time.

That’s all I have time for today. Thanks for visiting.
Come back soon!
~Trail Walker

Morning Surprises!

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You can see from the pictures above that “someone” flipped open the hopper feeder, helped him or herself to all the birdseed inside, and left behind a puzzled and confused squirrel. The first time this happened, I was surprised, but now it happens almost daily. I’m actually surprised when it doesn’t happen. If I looked out the kitchen window in the morning to see birds feasting on the seed I had poured into the feeder yesterday afternoon, that would be the surprise.  At first, I blamed the deer herd that makes nightly excursions up the hill from Chagrin River Park. I assumed they were the four legged marauders that had raided the Back Yard Buffet, but I’ve changed my mind about the likely culprits. It must be raccoons! Our thief can even twist open the plastic twist-ties that I use to secure the latch of the suet feeder. What other animal has the dexterity to lift the awkward, heavy lid of the hopper feeder and untwist the plastic ties and carry off the suet? What really surprised me this morning was seeing the squirrel standing inside the feeder. I know he’s not the thief because he and other members of his clan feast at the buffet all day long. They aren’t out and about after dark, and this morning he seemed to be perplexed that all the food was gone. He’s not happy and neither am I. I’m fighting a losing battle. The birds (and squirrels) are the real losers…and my bird-feeding budget of course!

The second surprise that appeared in the back yard buffet this morning was a welcome one. Flickers are rare visitors. I see them in the park occasionally but never right outside the kitchen window. This one found his (or her) breakfast on the ground underneath the hopper feeder, and was a very happy bird.  I was happy too because I thoroughly enjoyed the unexpected photoshoot! (Click on any picture to enlarge them.)

Thanks for stopping by the back yard buffet this morning.
See you soon!

~Trail Walker

Bad weather for birds

The weather wasn’t too bad in the morning, and a lonesome male bluebird stopped by to check out the nesting box. I’d like to think he was scouting for a home for his mate and future family, but I won’t be holding my breath on that score.

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However, as the day progressed, the weather worsened. In late afternoon I looked out the window to see snow falling and rapidly covering the ground with a coating of that white stuff, which looks magical in December, but by March…not so much! After the bluebird visitation this morning, there was very little bird activity. I took one last glance out the window as the light was fading,  and saw only some snowbirds (juncos) and a couple of mourning doves,  sheltering at the base of one of the feeders.  When the dove posed next to the water bowl, I snapped her picture.

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That was all the excitement for the day, and it was enough for me. I’m laying low for few days, recovering from a tumble off our back steps that resulted in an entire night in a massively crowded emergency room. And, no, I don’t know how it happened. They kept asking if I had passed out, lost consciousness, or felt dizzy, and all I could say was ,”No, no, and no,” whenever anyone asked.

That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it!!!
See you soon, Trail Walker

Birds before breakfast

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I was excited when I glanced through the kitchen window  at the backyard buffet and discovered an Eastern bluebird posing for multiple photo opps. The sky was overcast, as it usually is in February. A sunny blue sky would have been appreciated, but it wasn’t essential because this colorful visitor arrived with his own special brand of sunshine. And talk about blue! The hue on his wings suggested that they  had been dipped into a can of brilliant blue paint. Take a look at these photos of his morning grooming session.

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Mr. Bluebird wasn’t our only visitor yesterday.  Look who else stopped by to say hello! These unexpected sightings…all before breakfast, made this a memorable morning.

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The pileated woodpecker didn’t hold his pose for as much as a minute. He flew in, landed long enough for me to click off two shots, and whoooooshhh, he was gone!   But I got the shots, which made this a very good morning!

Thanks for stopping by to say hello.
Hope to see you soon!
Trail Walker

Return of the pileated woodpeckers

The light was dull this morning, and I couldn’t get a great picture, but look who reappeared in our backyard this morning. We haven’t been visited by the pileateds for months, and this morning I heard the distinctive “I’m here!” call, ran to my window, and there he was high up on the tall oak tree. “Guess who’s in the backyard,” I called to Bob, “and there are actually two of them!” The one shown in today’s post hanging out on the oak tree for about 15 minutes, seemed to be drilling in the bark for food.  I only caught a glimpse of the second bird, which was higher in the trees and moving around more then the male. I’m not sure if they were two males or a male/female pair, but whichever, I was really excited to see them.
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That was my backyard birding highlight for the week, but here are a couple two more recent visitors:

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A white-breasted nuthatch

…and two bluejays, who seem a little uncertain about sharing the feast I set out for them on the tree stump.

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Just some ordinary backyard birds, but fun to watch from my post inside the kitchen window.

Thanks for visiting my backyard buffet today.
I hope to see you again soon.
Trail Walker

 

Lazy (and wet) Sunday afternoon

The temperature was hovering around zero with freezing rain tapping on the window pane, so backyard birding seemed like a better idea than trudging down the trail in the park. Call me a wimp, if you want,  but I’m happiest indoors in weather like this.

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Trio of bluejays

The bluejays don’t seem to mind much as long as the rain isn’t pelting down, but I do mind, so I decided to do a little backyard birding from inside my kitchen window today.

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In most tree-shaded backyards, birding usually includes squirrels, and my yard is no different.  This squirrel is sheltering under the bird feeder, and he looks pretty happy about having the food all to himself.

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Most days I prefer birding along the trail in the park, but today I am thankful to capture my birds through the window. I hope you enjoyed the view.

Thanks for joining me. Let’s hope for sunny weather soon.
I’m not a trailwalker today!

 

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